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Detroit Metro Area Legal Blog

Unmarried cohabitating couples face unique estate issues

Unmarried couples who live together in Michigan face a unique set of legal matters related to estate and probate planning. Couples who live together but aren't married may be doing so for a variety of reasons. Usually, these types of couples are younger and do not believe in the institution of marriage, or they are elderly and have a more platonic, financially-centered relationship.

Whatever the reason, unmarried couples are not afforded the same set of estate and probate planning securities as married couples. Although it is rarely cited or enforced, Michigan is one of just a few states where it is technically illegal to cohabitate as an unmarried couple. However, a bill issued in the 2016 legislative session, Senate Bill 896, reached the Senate floor with a recommendation to pass.

Understanding Powers of Attorney in Michigan

No matter how much we try, we cannot predict the future. The best we can do is to prepare for it. If you are at any point unable to manage your assets and affairs, you will want someone in charge of all of these things whom you have chosen and that you know has your best interests in mind. When someone is in the position of legally making decisions on behalf of another, they are known as having power of attorney.

A power of attorney is just a legal document. It provides a person of your choosing with the ability to act in your place should you ever be unable to do so yourself. There are a few forms of a power of attorney and they all have specific roles to perform.

Contesting a will in Michigan

If you suspect the will your loved one left is not what they intended it to be, you may have grounds to contest their will. Contesting a will simply means that you are concerned about the validity of the document. Although this is somewhat rare, it is certainly possible, but before you can contest the will you must meet certain qualifications.

In the state of Michigan, you must be a beneficiary of the will, if there is a will, or an individual who would have inherited if the deceased did not have a will when they died. These titles usually apply to spouses, children, parents, etc. It should be noted that even though most wills have a clause in them that specifically states that anyone who contests the will is immediately unable to inherit, Michigan law states that a no-contest clause is not enacted if there are legitimate grounds for contesting the will.

Information first-time Michigan landlords should know

Buying and renting property represents a significant investment for landlords. If you are unfamiliar with the process it can be intimidating, especially if you are renting out property for the first time, but when done correctly it can go smoothly while also providing a consistent source of income. Each state has its own landlord-tenant laws so it is important to become familiar with them before renting out property.

The choice of a tenant is one that should be made careful, as you want your property treated well and with due respect. While landlords in Michigan are free to deny applicants based on factors like poor prior renting practices or bad credit, you must ensure that you comply with all fair housing laws. Under state and federal law, applicants cannot be denied housing due to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status (having children), disability, age, or marital status.

It is not always a tenant complaint that starts legal trouble

Landlords who own apartment complexes or other forms of residential rental properties provide necessary housing for people from all walks of life. In many ways, complying with the complex regulations that apply to residential property management in the Detroit area is complex. Anti-discrimination laws and rules that seem to limit landlords in securing agreements with residents are not always as clear-cut as they should be. In other situations, discriminatory practices may seem fairly obvious and easier to avoid for a proactive landlord.

Many landlord-tenant disputes, and even claims of discrimination in renting, can erupt when a disgruntled tenant or applicant makes some sort of complaint - either directly to the landlord or property manager, or externally. However, city or state officials may act without a complaint to search for reasons to investigate residential landlords. A recent story in the Detroit Free Press highlights how a landlord's potential misunderstand of local regulations can lead to significant legal problems.

What happens if estate assets are missing?

During the probate process, the personal representative (which is sometimes referred to as the executor) will inventory the estate of the deceased. Occasionally, documents or assets that the personal representative knows about may be difficult to find. A missing asset may have been misplaced over time, but problems can arise if suspicions arise between family members concerning the whereabouts of large assets.

  • Did a family member take assets surreptitiously?
  • Did the personal representative mishandle estate assets?
  • Did a trust administrator misuse his or her power and breach a fiduciary duty?

Smoke-Free Provisions in Apartment Leases

Throughout Michigan, more and more owners of market-rate apartment buildings are choosing to make their properties smoke-free. This makes good business sense because: 

  • There is a preference by tenants for smoke-free facilities.
  • The rehab cost for a unit occupied by a non-smoker is much lower than the cost for a unit occupied by a smoker.
  •  About 9 percent of apartment fires are caused by smoking.
  • Allowing smoking in a multiunit residential building potentially puts the owner at risk for civil litigation by non-smokers under common law theories, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.
  • Implementing a non-smoking policy can increase the re-sale value of a building.

It all sounds good, but for the owner of a multiunit residential building, several questions arise. How can the owner implement a non-smoking policy? What should the owner do regarding current tenants who smoke? What about a prospective tenant who is certified to use medical marijuana?

Stress-free real estate transactions are feasible with our help

Real estate properties are some of the most valuable assets owned by Michigan residents, making any action related to them especially significant. Real estate transactions can be some of the most precarious transactions if mishandled. With a great deal of money and emotional investment on the line, securing the best deal possible for our clients is our top priority.

Transactions concerning real estate properties entail much more than simply handing over a title in exchange for a check. The typical high value of most real estate properties itself means that few people can afford to pay cash, thus requiring the help of a lender in order to secure a viable loan. The paperwork involved with obtaining a loan can be tedious, and we build bridges that allow everyone involved to coordinate on the accuracy and necessity of related paperwork.

Real estate litigation needs the right guidance -- we can help

Issues involving buying and selling property in Michigan can be complex and even result in lawsuits. Real estate litigation can cover a wide range of disputes whose outcomes can be of profound importance. When it comes to addressing a serious dispute in real estate, going it alone is usually not advisable.

Opposing claims to property can be especially troubling for owners. These often arise after a person has passed away and left a property to a certain family member. However, improper transactions and unrecorded easements can also lead to this type of dispute. The vast majority of property owners hope for a quiet and cost effective solution to remove these opposing claims, and we have helped many of our Michigan clients accomplish this.

Landlord/tenant dispute: Carbon monoxide in home a risk

In any relationship between a landlord and a tenant, there are standards that must be met to ensure the health and welfare of the occupants of a rental property. Some Michigan landlords do not honor these protocols, putting the lives of tenants at risk. A recent landlord/tenant dispute involves allegations that a landlord failed to ensure the safety of her tenants.

The lives of a woman and her daughter were endangered due to a safety issue in the rental home. Reportedly, they went to bed around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and did not wake up until 3:30 p.m. the next day. It was discovered the pair had been subjected to high amounts of carbon monoxide due to a faulty furnace.

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